Inverness to Aberdeen Road Trip: Best Stops, inc. Maps & Pics

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Inverness to Aberdeen Road Trip

What’s in this Inverness to Aberdeen Road Trip Article?

  • The best places to stop on an Inverness to Aberdeen road trip
  • Suggestions of various road trip routes, with distances and travel times
  • Lots of photos and information to help you decide where you might like to stop on your drive between these two Scottish cities.

We’ve driven all of these Inverness to Aberdeen (and Aberdeen to Inverness) road trip routes we suggest here, several times over during the year we lived in Scotland.

What is there to do Between Inverness and Aberdeen?

There is plenty to do between Inverness and Aberdeen, and we’ve seen and done all of these we’ve listed. The route map below shows the location of all stops and colour coded depending on the road trip route taken.

Summary of all the stops included in this Inverness to Aberdeen Road Trip Post

  • Culloden
  • Clava Cairns
  • Fort George
  • Cawdor Castle
  • Brodie Castle
  • Findhorn Beach
  • Elgin Cathedral
  • Bowfiddle Rock
  • Cullen
  • Findlater
  • Crovie
  • Troup Head
  • Pennan
  • Loch of Strathbeg
  • Rattray Lighthouse
  • Peterhead Prison
  • Bullers of Buchan
  • Newburgh Seal Beach
  • Dulnain Bridge
  • Grantown-on-Spey
  • Cairngorms Snow Road
  • “Still” Sculpture
  • Keith Old Bridge
  • Huntly Castle
  • The Watcher’s
  • Kildrummy Castle
  • Castle Fraser

Inverness to Aberdeen Map: Routes and Places to visit in Between

Inverness to Aberdeen Distance

So, how long will it take you to drive from Inverness to Aberdeen? The distance, and therefore the time it takes you, will vary depending on your route, how many stops you make and how many detours you take off the main route.

That said, we’ve included three possible Inverness to Aberdeen road trip options, with approximate distances and travel times, below:

  1. Inverness to Aberdeen Coastal Route
    • Distance: 152 miles / 245km
    • Travel Time: 3 hours 30 mins
  2. Inverness to Aberdeen Fastest Route
    • Distance: 104 miles / 167km
    • Travel time: 2 hours 20 mins
  3. Inverness to Aberdeen via the Cairngorms

You can jump to the detailed information for each route by clicking one of the options above or browse all of them by reading on …

Inverness to Aberdeen Coastal Route

Inverness to Aberdeen Coastal Route blue line showing route on a map
Coastal Route Road Trip from Inverness to Aberdeen

The Coastal route from Inverness to Aberdeen has the most to see out of the three options and is also the longest route.

Summary of Stops on Inverness to Aberdeen Coastal Route

  • Culloden Castle and Visitor Centre
  • Clava Cairns
  • Fort George and Highlanders Museum
  • Cawdor Castle
  • Brodie Castle
  • Findhorn Beach
  • Elgin Cathedral
  • Bowfiddle Rock
  • Cullen
  • Findlater
  • Crovie
  • Troup Head
  • Pennan
  • Loch of Strathbeg
  • Rattray Lighthouse
  • Peterhead Prison and Museum
  • Bullers of Buchan
  • Newburgh Seal Beach

Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre

If you are a history lover or Outlander Fan, then Culloden Battlefield and visitor centre needs to be on your Inverness to Aberdeen itinerary. For me, it was a deeply moving experience. Not only because I am an Outlander fan and knew the history behind the battle, but also because so many of my ancestors were from Scotland.

The modern Visitor Centre at Culloden walks you through the long history of events that eventually led to the 1746 Battle of Culloden, where the Jacobite army was slaughtered and crushed by the English Government army.

Culloden Battlefield is free to enter, but the Visitor Centre charges an entrance fee — unless you are a member of the Scottish National Trust, as we were.

McClachlan gravestone at Culloden Battlefield
Poignant reminders of lives lost at Culloden Battlefield

READ MORE: For more about this historical landmark in Scotland, read this Guide to Visiting Culloden Battlefield

Clava Cairns

Just five minutes from Culloden Battlefield, are the 4000-year-old Clava Cairns.

This ancient sacred site contains prehistoric burial monuments and standing stones. There are a few information boards here, but other than that you are surrounded only by the cairns and nature.

The peace and surrounding nature make this little enclave a pleasure to visit. Allow yourself ample time to contemplate what life may have been like here thousands of years ago.

One of the main cairns was built so that the summer solstice sun setting strikes the entrance.

Clava Cairns is open year-round and free to enter.

Clava-Cairns-and-sun-flare
Clava Cairns at sunset
Shelley stood by a standing stone at Clava Cairns
At Clava CairnsImagining life 4000 years ago and secretly hoping something magical might happen when touching the stones

Fort George

Fort George was built in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden to protect Scotland from any future Jacobite rebellion. It took, however, 20 years to complete, by which time the Jacobite threat no longer existed. This huge fortification was used by the British Army for 250 years.

If you are interested in military history, then Fort George is worth a stop because it also houses Scotland’s second largest regimental museum (Edinburgh’s museum is the largest).

Cawdor Castle

Cawdor Castle has been in the Cawdor family since the 14th century, with 23 generations calling this place home. What makes this castle interesting and its accompanying stories is the petrified holly tree in its centre.

The castle sits amongst the Big Wood where you’ll find nature trails of varying lengths and it has three gardens. Prices vary depending on whether you want to visit the castle and gardens or just the castle itself.

Brodie Castle

Brodie Castle is run by the National Trust and it is particularly spectacular in spring when the grounds are awash with swathes of golden daffodils — with over 100 varieties, no less.

It was home to the Brodie clan for over 400 years and is surrounded by a quirky ‘Playful Garden’ where you’ll find a giant 6.5-metre white rabbit, unicorns that create spray rainbows, spinning chairs, mirror totem poles and all sorts of other quirky installations.

Findhorn Beach

Findhorn is known for its long white sandy beach and its spiritual, sustainable ecovillage run by the Findhorn Foundation.

Coloured beach huts on a sandy beach
Findhorn Beach

Elgin Cathedral

Elgin Cathedral, known as the ‘Lantern of the North’, is definitely worth a stop en route whether heading south to Aberdeen or north to Inverness. It is run by Historic Environment Scotland and if a member, you have free entry.

Although a ruin, Elgin Cathedral has plenty to offer visitors. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of artifacts still intact, providing a peephole into what the ‘Lantern of the North’ once looked like, and the symbolism and stories from the past dotted around both the cathedral and its graveyard.

The cathedral is said to have been one of the finest pieces of architecture in Scotland, and the Chapter house, still almost intact from the 1500s, has an amazing vaulted ceiling, which was once coated with gold paint.

Climb the northwest tower for giddying views over the grounds and to find out more about the various sculptures, including faces and dog heads, in the architecture of the cathedral. Make sure to look down as you climb the winding stone staircase because the steps are made of recycled gravestones.

There are a few quizzes you like might like to do while there too:

Elgin-Cathedral ruins and gravestones
Elgin Cathedral

Bow Fiddle Rock

We both love scenery, but Lars particularly, is drawn to sea stacks and photogenic rock arches, formed over millennia by the endless pounding of the waves.

Needless to say, Bow Fiddle Rock had him enraptured. He was there for quite some time taking photos from all angles, waiting for the waves to crash and the sun to peek out from behind the clouds to light up his subject just right.

Sometimes on our road trips, as in the case with Bow Fiddle Rock, we don’t want to spend the same amount of time at each stop. Therefore, as on any couple’s road trip, compromises or sacrifices need to be made. So, when we come across sea stacks and the like, I know Lars will spend a reasonable amount of time there. I always make sure I have a book to read or podcast to listen to so I’m not getting bored waiting for him… or take a sneaky half-hour cat nap.

Many people are attracted to this naturally formed, million years old rock arch though. It’s called Bow Fiddle Rock because it’s shaped like the tip of a fiddle bow.

Bow-Fiddle-Rock viewed from the beach
Bow Fiddle Rock

Cullen

When we first arrived in Scotland, we kept noticing Cullen Skink on menus and wondered what kind of animal this was. Cullen Skink, however, is the Scottish speciality soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes, onions and milk.

What better place to try out this local dish than in the very town from which it originated, the seaside town of Cullen. There are a few local restaurants serving up this hearty soup, but we recommend grabbing a homemade steaming bowl at Lily’s Kitchen.

Cullen skink Soup
The famous Scottish delicacy of Cullen Skink

Findlater Castle

Findlater Castle ruins seem to be balanced precariously on a rocky peninsula and it looks like it may crumble into the ocean at any moment. It was built in the 1450s by the Ogilvy family and lays claim to being besieged by Mary Queen of Scots.

The ruins can be reached by either, parking in a small carpark about a 10 to15 minute walk away or along a two-mile coastal route from Cullen. There is a viewpoint and info board overlooking the promontory with a path leading towards the castle ruins. However, the path is steep and can be muddy going down to the castle and slippery if it’s wet — so take care.

Findlater-Castle ruins on a rocky promontory with a 50 ft drop down to the ocean
The ruins of Findlater Castle perched precariously on the edge of the promontory
Findlater-Csstle-close-up of crumbling ruins on the edge of the cliff
The crumbling ruins of Findlater Castle

Crovie

Crovie is a unique village that is squeezed in between the coast and the cliffs behind. It’s the best-preserved fishing village in Europe, and as can be seen in the photo, it has the narrowest space between the shore and cliffs of any Scottish village.

There is a viewing point and car park at the top of the cliffs.

Crovie-Village aerial view  — a narrow row of house squeezed in between the seashore and the  cliffs behind
©Canva Crovie Village, Aberdeenshire

Troup Head

Troup Head has to be one of my favourite places to visit when we have a day trip from Aberdeen. From spring, thousands of gannets arrive on the cliffs for the breeding season. I really could spend hours watching their ungracious landings, noisy squabbles, and amorous beak knocking.

In summer, their chicks hatch, and by September, they’ve all left, returning to the open seas until the following year when nature repeats itself and the cycle continues.

Read More: All About Troup Head and its Glorious Gannets

Troup Head Gannet landing
Gannets galore at Troup Head

Pennan

Pennan is another village perched on the edge of the coast and is nestled by the surrounding cliffs. It is famous for being the backdrop to the 1986 Warner Bros film Local Hero, starring Burt Lancaster.

Also, some of the scenes of the 2013 remake of Whisky Galore, based on the true story of a 1941 shipwreck, were shot in Pennan. The SS Politician ship ran aground near the Hebridean island of Eriskay and a group of local islanders raided its cargo of 24,000 cases of whisky.

Loch of Strathbeg

Loch of Strathberg Nature Reserve is a wonderful wetland teeming with wildlife. Owned by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), it is the largest dune loch in Great Britain. With over 560 species of wildlife, a walk along many of the reserve’s walking trails will likely introduce you to several of the community’s birdlife.

Loch of Strathbeg is touted as one of the best birdwatching sites in Scotland. In fact, while we were there, there was palpable excitement among the birdwatchers as a rarely seen greater yellow leg had been spotted several times in the Loch.

blue heron flying over water
Blue Heron at Loch of Strathbeg

Some of the trails are only open in summer (Fen and Bay Hides Trail), but in winter you can still walk to Tower Pool Hide and watch the geese that migrate here from the Arctic.

Popular visitors are the pink-footed geese that begin to arrive in autumn, from Greenland and Iceland. In fact, about one-fifth of the world’s population of pink-footed geese stop here between September and March.

The wetland also includes the five miles of beach along the coast.

Keep an eye out for the Konik ponies in the wetlands here. They are a hardy breed of pony, originating in Poland, and are used to assist conservation methods in areas such as lowland wetlands. They are semi-wild horses that graze on dense vegetation. This, in turn, encourages a rich diversity of habitats and encourages wildflower growth.

Opening Times: The nature reserve and hides are open at all times (free of charge)

Konik ponies at Loch Strathbeg
The hardy Konik ponies at Loch Strathbeg

Rattray Lighthouse

Why are so many of us attracted to lighthouses? Some are architecturally attractive. Many are on dramatic coastlines, standing up to relentless weathering as their beacons warn ocean goers of perils close by. Perhaps it’s the symbolism of hope and comfort, or the romanticism of the past when the lone lighthouse keeper suffered solitude and kept the beacon lit to ensure others were safe.

For us, it’s a mixture of all of these, and as photographers, there is something special about capturing the magic of a lighthouse at sunrise and sunset.

Rattray Head Lighthouse is just off the coast and can be reached at low tide by a quick walk through the sand dunes.

Rattray Head Lighthouse at sunrise seen through the sand dunes and dune grass
Rattray Head Lighthouse just after sunrise

Peterhead Prison Museum

Peterhead Prison was the only convict prison in Scotland and operated between the years, 1888 and 2013.

When you visit you are given an audio headset which then guides you around the prison corridors, cells, halls, laundry, hospital wing, laundry, shower blocks punishment block. The tour takes about 1.5 -2 hours

For more information and short videos have a look at their website here.

Peterhead-Prison-Door
Peterhead Prison Museum

Bullers of Buchan

At Bullers of Buchan, you’ll find a collapsed sea cave and rugged cliffs that are the nesting sites for colonies of seabirds, such as guillemots, razorbills, puffins, fulmars, and kittiwakes. You might also see grey seals and dolphins offshore.

The sea cave is 30-metre deep and is known as ‘the pot’. Bullers of Buchan is a fantastic spot for coastal views.

Cliffs at Bullers of Buchan
Bullers of Buchan and its collapsed sea cave

Newburgh Seal Beach

Newburgh seal beach is another of our favourite spots and is only a 20-minute drive from Aberdeen.

For more information and lots of photos of the grey seal colony at Newburgh Beach, read our post: Newburgh Seal Beach at Forvie Nature Reserve.

The seals haul themselves out on the banks of the Ythan River and can be seen swimming up and down the river. They are quite inquisitive things and are often just as interested in you as you are in them. This area is part of the Forvie Nature Reserve, surrounded by golden sand dunes and attracts plenty of wildlife.

Newburgh-Beach-seals all layig together on the sand bank beside the ocean
Seals at Newburgh Beach, Forvie Nature Reserve

Fastest Route from Inverness to Aberdeen

This Inverness to Aberdeen road trip route starts the same way as the Coastal Route until Elgin but after that, you would continue to Aberdeen along the A96. The route differs, in that you will pass Keith Old Bridge and Huntly Castle.

Inverness to Aberdeen Fastest route blue line showing route on Scotland map

Summary of Best stops on the Inverness to Aberdeen Road Trip Fastest Route

  • Culloden Castle and Visitor Centre
  • Clava Cairns
  • Fort George and Highlanders Museum
  • Cawdor Castle
  • Brodie Castle
  • Findhorn Beach
  • Elgin Cathedral
  • Keith Old Bridge
  • Huntly Castle

Keith Old Bridge

The listed Old Bridge of Keith is also known as the Bridge of Grange and Keith Auld Brig. This picturesque bridge arches its way over the River Isla and is the oldest bridge in the county of Moray.

It was built in 1609 as a packhorse crossing by a couple who lived nearby, Thomas Moray and his wife, Janet Lindsay. They built the bridge at their own expense because they were concerned about the dangers of crossing the ford. On the eastern side, you can see a worn carving of their coat of arms.

In 1706, Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, apparently crossed the bridge and, admiring it, declared it to be a ‘fine bridge‘.

Also along the banks of the River Isla, you’ll find Strathisla Distillery, the oldest continually operating distillery on The Malt Whisky Trail in Speyside, and considered one of the most picturesque.

Keith old bridge viewed from the nearby cemetery with gravstones and snow in the foreground
Keith Old Bridge

Huntly Castle

As you’ll see from the photos, we visited Huntly Castle in the snow. You might be forgiven for thinking this was in the depths of winter, but we were heading to a house sit in Grantown-on- Spey, near Inverness, and it was mid-April.

We had planned to take the snow road route from Aberdeen to Inverness but due to heavy snow, the road was closed.

We were surprised to see snow at this time of year, but the lady in the visitor centre told us this was quite common and it was known as lambing snow — snow that comes just as the lambs are being born.

Huntly-Castle ruins in the snow with person looking on
Huntly-Castle-in-the-snow

Huntly Castle in the snow

Scotland’s ruined castles have a romantic air around them, but the appeal of Huntly Castle seemed even more intense as we explored it amidst snow flurries, taking shelter within its ancient walls.

The original castle was built around 1190 by the earls of Fife, and later, in the 1300s, the Gordon Clan made it their home. Over the years it was renovated and added to, but it wasn’t until 1599 that it was transformed into the magnificent palace that we see as ruins today.

The 6th Earl of Huntly became the first Marquis of Huntly and celebrated his new title by adding special features to the castle, such as an inscription on the roofline to show the Gordons’ ownership of the castle, double height windows, a great round tower and a heraldic ‘frontispiece’ over the main door.

Herldic stone insrts in teh tower above door of castle
The heraldic designs above the main door of Huntly Castle

Inverness to Aberdeen Road Trip via the Cairngorms

NOTE: If you are driving outside of the summer season, please check the weather conditions at Traffic Scotland, on the Snow road section of this route because it may be closed.

If you are interested in history or an Outlander fan, I’d recommend a quick detour at the start of your trip to Culloden Battlefield, Visitor Centre and Clava Cairns. These attractions are only a 15-minute drive from the centre of Inverness and you can easily detour back to the A9 via the B851.

Once back on the A9, you will be heading towards the town of Grantown-on-Spey and the scenic snow road route in the Cairngorms. The Snow Road has blind summits, single-lane roads, steep hills and spectacular Highland scenery.

Inverness to aberdeen via Cairngorms

Summary of Best stops on the Inverness to Aberdeen Road Trip via the Cairngorms

  • Culloden (recommended)
  • Dulnain Old Packhorse Bridge
  • Granton-on-Spey
  • Snow Road
  • “Still” Art Sculpture
  • The Watcher’s Sculpture
  • KIldrummy Castle
  • Castle Fraser

Dulnain Old Packhorse Bridge

The Dulnain Bridge, also known as the Carrbridge Bridge, was built in 1717. This is because, when the river was full and fast flowing, it was impossible to cross. Burials at the local church were delayed. Therefore, the Parish paid for the bridge to be built so that the funeral processions could continue. It is also sometimes referred to as the Funeral, or Coffin Bridge.

This bridge is an iconic image for the Cairngorms and is a short walk from the town carpark.

Old Packhorse stone bridge with high arch over a river
Dulnain Bridge, Carrbridge

Grantown-on-Spey

The hIghland town of Grantown-on-Spey is on the edge of the Cairngorms and is also the start of the Snow Road Route. The town itself is small but is an ideal base if you decide to stop here for a few days and explore the surrounding area.

Attractions in the area that we really liked include, RSPB Loch Garten, Nethy Bridge, the Strathspey Railway, and the Highland Wildlife Centre.

The town is also surrounded by wildlife-rich woodlands, where you might spot red squirrels, deer and golden eagles.

Still Art Sculpture

The scenery along the Snow road route is spectacular, with rolling hills and classic Scottish Highland views but also along the route are a few scenic road installations. The first one you’ll come across, if you take this road trip route from Inverness to Aberdeen, is ‘Still’ at Tomintoul.

The mirrored, box-like structure was designed by a couple of Glasgow architects to enhance the highland scenery by reflecting the view from each end of the sculpture.

Still-Sculpture-Snow-road
The ‘Still’ Sculpture with views across the valley reflecting on the sides of the box-like structure

The Watchers and Moment in Time Sculptures

Standing together, these two sculptures complement each other. The engraved standing stone, designed by Louise Gardiner, was created to frame views of the Corgarff Castle in the distance. The Watcher’s, the brown cowls, in the photo below, each have a seat embedded in them and can be interpreted how you like.

The-Watchers-sculture-on-Snowroad
The Moment in Time stone sculpture and The Watchers with seats embedded in the bronze-coloured pillars, on the Snow Road through the Cairngorms

Kildrummy Castle

Kildrummy Castle was built in the mid-1200s and the main seat for the Earls of Mar. Today, although only its ruins remain, it is one of the most complete examples of a Scottish castle of its time.

Castle ruins
Kildrummy Castle ruins are quite spectacular

Kildrummy Castle would have a few stories to tell if its crumbling walls could talk. It was involved in the 14th-century Wars of Independence and the early Jacobite Rising of 1715.

side view of castle ruins
Kildrummy Castle ruins are well preserved

Castle Fraser

Castle Fraser is looked after by the National Trust for Scotland and is one of the largest tower houses in Scotland. It dates from the 15th century and was home to the Fraser family for over 400 years.

There are numerous portraits in the castle along with plenty of stories and tales related to exhibits on display.

castle with turrets
Castle Fraser
Castle seen from the gardens nearby
Castle Fraser seen from its Walled Gardens

Driving in Scotland

  • Drive on the left
  • Seatbelts are compulsory
  • Slow down for cyclists — you must leave 1.5 meters between your vehicle and the cyclist while passing
  • Slow down if you see farm animals either on or beside the road
  • Do not park in passing places and always use the left passing place to stop for oncoming traffic — never the right
  • Speed Limits are as follows unless otherwise signposted
    • Motorways and Dual Carriageways: 70 mph (112 km/h) for cars, Motorhomes under 3.05 tonnes or 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars towing caravans or trailers.
    • Built-up Areas: 30 mph (48 km/h) or signposted 20 mph  (32 km/h)
    • Outside Built-up Areas: 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars or 50 mph (80 km/h) for cars towing caravans or trailers.

For all regulations and road safety in the Uk visit the Government website here.

Inverness to Aberdeen Road Trip … That’s a Wrap

Whichever road trip route you choose, and whether you are travelling from Inverness to Aberdeen or Aberdeen to Inverness, this post will have given you plenty of ideas on what to see and do on the route.

You may be taking a day trip, or intend to spend a few days exploring the area. Either way, you are spoilt for choice with historic castles, wildlife and scenic towns and villages along the way.

To help you plan your road trip, why not download our free printable Road Trip Planner.

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PLANNING YOUR TRAVELS?

These are some of the travel resources we use when planning our trip and can recommend:

For a more thorough list visit our Travel Resources page here.

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